Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What passion, if any, will call you?

As a young woman in college at Penn, majoring in history, Julie Jaffe wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life.
“It was a world where women did what their mothers said,” Julie explained recently.. “My mother said, ‘Be a teacher!’ and I did.”
Later, she rebelled and went to law school – one of 15 women in her class at Temple, of whom only 8, including Julie, survived the year, she says.
“But I found I liked the teaching, and went back to it. ‘If you save one soul, you save the world,’ the Talmud explains,” Julie says.
 She also liked being a ‘showman” and a “story teller,” and so taught children’s literacy in Philadelphia’s public schools for about 40 years.
But having left full time work, Julie has decided that she doesn’t need a passionate, later-in-life mission, unlike some of those people who show up on Oprah.
“It’s ok not to have a passion. I don’t feel I have to have a successful-something at this time of life. I want to enjoy my family and friends and have time to follow a variety of pursuits."
 At first, Julie says, “I became, much to my distress, an organization lady,” serving on various boards. “My mother was an organization person and I swore I’d never do that,” Julie explained.
(How is it that we are always trying to escape being like our mothers?…. )
“I took a course on Ulysses at the Rosenbach, that was fabulous. And I make chocolate-covered pretzels and sell them.  People say, 'Do this as a business,' but I don’t want to.”
She’s helping a friend with cancer, practices yoga, studies meditation, is interested in bringing art into classrooms, and travels with her husband to places like Bhutan and Russia. And she’s found meaning serving on the board of  the Children’s Literacy Initiative.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Forget Florida

Forget moving to Florida or Arizona. It’s not happening that much anymore, said economist Mark Zandi, speaking on National Public Radio today.
Why? People are realizing they need to work longer in their lives and to do that, he said, you need your network of friends and associates.
 “Skills, education, health and your network,” that’s what you need,” said Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s analytics.  
“The biggest investment you can make is nurturing your network where you are today.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ever hear of a "link job?"

Nan Steketee – an avid bicyclist,  fundraiser for MS, knitter, and garden enthusiast, among many other things – feels 10 years younger than her age. No way, she says, is she ready for  “retirement.”
But she is ready for a “link job,” as she calls it.
 “I’m looking for something between being being totally absorbed and exhausted” on the one hand  and “doing hobbies” on the other, Nan explains.
She’s come up with an interesting niche: to be an interim executive director of a non- profit, stepping in temporarily to fill a vacancy created by illness, incompetence or some other leadership void. There are a limited number of people who do this kind of thing, she explains over coffee at Volo in Manyunk.
In such a job, she says, she could use the many leadership skills she's developed over her career in the non-profit world. Nan  launched and for 20 years ran the Center for Responsible Funding in Philadelphia. She and her husband moved to California for six years where Nan was Bay Area Development Manager for Earth Share of California After her return and until recently, she was Development Director for the Women's Law Project. 
She wants to plunge in for the short term, but not for the five-year commitment she feels a permanent leadership role deserves. “I can’t see out that far,” she says.

In the wings, also calling her, are her husband, children, “four wonderful grandchildren,”  riding her bike long miles,  a commitment to city kids (she and her husband, Scott, are a support system for one young man in college).
“At the end of such a temporary job, I might take another one. I might at that point  be ready to retire.  I’m not sure. We’ll see.”

I love the idea of a link job. It could be many links, linking one adventure to the next. Who knows?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moving on from my "mid-life career"

I hate the word “retired.”  Ditto “retirement.”
“How are you enjoying retirement?” friends ask me, not understanding that I am busier than ever reinventing myself.
So, today I checked the dictionary to see if my repulsion is justified by the word’s meaning.
Yes, indeed! According to the American Heritage Dictionary,  retire  means “1) To withdraw, as for rest or seclusion; 2) To go to bed; 3).To withdraw from one’s occupation, business or office; stop working. 4) To fall back or retreat, as from battle” and so on.

More interestingly – and in step with how the boomers are redefining a step-back from career --  the dictionary goes on to give some background on the word retire.
“Despite the upbeat books written about retiring and the fact that it is a well-earned time of relaxation from the daily rigors of work, many people do not find it a particularly pleasant prospect. Perhaps the etymology of retire may hint at why. The ultimate source of our word is the Old French word retirer, made up of the prefix re -- , meaning in this case 'back' and the verb tirer, 'to draw,' together meaning 'to take back or withdraw.'…It is not until 1667 that we find the word used to mean ‘to withdraw from a position for more leisure.' "
Tirer, the dictionary goes on to say, “ultimately may be from the Old French martir, 'a martyr,' probably reflecting the fact that martyrs had to endure the torture of being stretched up to and beyond the point of dislocating their bones.”

Well, my job was never a bone-pulling event,. I loved it! though my husband sometimes complained about the dislocation of our family when I came home late.
So, a plethora of phrases  are now being invented to describe ‘unretirement,” including “encore careers,” “third age careers, and “second adulthood.”
Similarly, new organizations are seeking to harness this explosion of people with energy and (supposedly) time, including Coming of Ageand Civic Ventures, which runs Encore Careers which, amazingly, links you to “encore fellowships.” 

The fellowships link people at the “end of their midlife careers with social-purpose organizations.”

Hey, I like that. I’m just winding up my “midlife career” and embarking on the next…..

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Never-Say-Die Mystery Writer

What, you might ask, does  Italian mystery writer Andrea Camilleri have to do with a blog called “Unretiring”?
Apparently, Camilleri himself is unretiring, having written about 20 books since plunging into mystery writing at age 69. (He's now 86)

“He’s an example of what you can do,”  said Peter Rozovsky,  a copy editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer on one of my last days at work. Foolishly thinking I might have some leisure time on my hands, I’d dropped by Rozovsky’s desk to get a list of his favorite mystery writers, since he writes the blog

Camilleri’s protagonist, the workaholic Inspector Salvo Montalbano, is totally at loose ends when it comes to free time, which is why, I’m guessing, Camilleri himself can’t stop working either.
Here’s an insight into Camilleri’s dilemma – and that of so many of us fearful of leaving longtime careers– from his book,  “The Wings of the Sphinx”:
The Sicilian police inspector Montalbano, is debating with himself over his ability to enjoy a few days off:

“Yes, he could take advantage of them to –"
“To do what? Montalbano One suddenly asked. Would you please tell me exactly what you know how to do other than your job? You eat, shit, sleep, read a few novels, and every now and then you go to the movies. And that’s it. You don’t like to travel, you don’t go in for sports, you have no hobbies, and when you come right down to it, you don’t even have any friends with whom to spend a few hours."
“What is this bullshit, anyway? Montalbano Two intervened polemically. He goes for longer swims than an Olympic champion and you’re telling me he doesn’t go in for sports?"
“Swimming doesn’t count. What counts are genuine, serious interests, the kind that enrich and give meaning to a man’s life."
“Oh, yeah? Give me one example of these ‘interests’! Gardening? Collecting stamps?"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jonah's rendering of UnRetiring

Needing a change from looking at my photo, I commissioned Jonah, 8, to reimagine my blog's name.

What do you think? Should I sub this for the red dress photo?

"I forgot to re-tire my tires!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

David Broida discovers a new passion

By the time that  David Broida turned 62, he'd been director of the Upper Merion Parks and Recreation Department for 32 years. He was ready to move on.  "I wanted to explore new things," he says, and  "the incentive of Social Security helped on the money side." Not that he hasn't been exploring things his whole life. Broida created and ran the Upper Merion Music Festival for 23 years, raised thousands of dollar for AIDS research, volunteers at homeless shelters, and serves on the board of  Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis in Philadelphia,  which focuses on under-resourced families  And I know I've left out a lot, including  that he’s a musician who regularly jams with friends. 
David and I rode our bikes through West Philadelphia the other day – a winding route that took us past abandoned tennis courts, cracked with weeds. "For $100,000 all these courts could be fixed," said Broida, who has collected coats from the lost-and-founds of suburban schools and donated them to kids in the city. Later on, we rode through the University of Pennsylvania’s $46.5 million dollar new PennPark, where the tennis courts, with bleachers, could host a mini-Wimbledon.
New Courts At PennPark
Weedy Courts, 52nd and Wyalusing
Over coffee,  we talked about his journey. David’s  best advice is to “do something different.”

He stepped into his “retirement” fairly typically:
“For  the first two months, I just cleaned up the house a little. I really didn't do anything. I just read. .. rode my bike, played tennis. I just played.”
Then, something happened that lit his fire. As a former administrator, responsible for budgets and the like, he didn’t want to do that again. But when the Shipley School suddenly had an opening for a tennis instructor, he signed on.
“I was lucky” he explains. That led to a new career teaching tennis in public and private programs, still leaving him time for his myriad other interests, including launching the Bryn Mawr Twilight concerts, which run each weekend in summer.
“My advice for myself was just to follow my interests.  … What's really nice is to do something completely different from what you've been doing.”

Send me your story, or suggestions of folks to interview at

Monday, November 14, 2011

This is a birthday?

So, it was my birthday yesterday. And what did I do?
"This is not how I expected to spend a Sunday -- and your birthday!" my husband griped, after I spent hours on the computer, worrying over a Power Point.
How could this be? I 've left my job. I should have plenty of time

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How much would you pay?

I just mean for the chair?

 Nothing like having a first birthday deadline to deal with the tag-sale rocker that sat in my garage for two years. I  decoupaged it with children's wrapping paper. I figure my time was worth about $2 an hour.  But my creative satisfaction was priceless.
"Make more and sell them on Etsy," my daughter said.
Hmmmm. I'm opening doors. Not sure which ones I'll walk through.

I might take orders... see another photo...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ugh, the Paperwork!

No wonder I haven’t quite  launched my new life. Leaving a longtime job for the great unknown of un-retiring is like moving to a new city. Or dealing with a dead parent’s estate. There’s...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No Golfers here

Nothing against golf, but if you think that’s what comes after you quit work, take a look at this extraordinary collection of stories from the Coming of Age project. People are doing everything from saving baby clams at the shore to saving kids in the city. There's no shortage of ideas here!

Monday, November 7, 2011

An idea rolls in

Oct. 10
So what’s next? What adventures loom? To my surprise, ideas begin landing as soon as I start telling people I've quit. First,  from my Columbia University Journalism school class. We’re a tight group, probably because – in the year after the 1968 upheaval at Columbia – we all took “sensitivity training. “  Journalists should be good listeners, we thought.  Over the years, members have loaned money to each other, found jobs for each other, and celebrated books published.  I was one of the last people left  with a newspaper job. Someone on the list serve suggested a gig training journalists abroad for a month at a time. Hmm. How would my hubby feel about that? He’s still working and can’t drop everything. And there are the grandkids, variously 3 and 4.5 hours away. Do I see them more than once a month anyway? And that was just the first idea to roll in.

No sheetcake, Please!

Oct. 3, 2011:
This is my last week at work, but I am not at work. No way do I want the goodbye sheetcake. Nor will I  write the farewell email… ‘had a great ride… will miss everyone… blah blah blah.”  For two weeks, my coworkers at the Philadelphia Inquirer have been quietly coming by to give me hugs and tell me how, as their editor, I helped make their stories better. This is my reward. I will slip out quietly, striking out into who knows what? My friends have been telling me for 10 years that there’s life after journalism, as each buyout has threatened the strength of our newsroom and I debated leaving. But I loved my job too much. Now, though, with a reduced workforce, it’s clear the future holds less fun than the past.
Time to go.